As THE ROUGH DRESS is in three parts – one set in rural England, the second in the inner city of London, and the third in Ontario (all in the mid-1800s) – there’s lots of research involved.
Which I love – often to the detriment of the story. I get so involved that the time goes by and I have no writing time left. Or I end up with so much research material that I have no idea how I might use it all.
I’ve partially solved this by:
1. Separating the processes into two separate working sessions. I work on research for 60 to 90 mins in the morning, then do the writing for the same period of time later in the day. (Reversed today, as I woke early at 4:45 am and put in my writing time then.)
2. When I reach a place in the draft MS when I need more information or want to confirm a factual detail, rather than stopping and reverting to research mode, I type in a double ?? – or insert a footnote to specify the info I need – then keep writing. At the beginning of each research session I review the MS for the ?? and footnotes, and only then pursue the information.
3. For the month of November, the only reading I will be doing is research-related. Books on my To Read list for this project include, among others:
- Voyages of Hope: The Saga of Bride-Ships by Peter Johnson
- London Labour and the London Poor by William Mayhew
- Across the Waters: Ontario Immigrant Experiences 1820 – 1850 by Frances Hoffman
- Roughing it in the Bush by Susannah Moodie
- The Makers of Canada: The Pioneers of Old Ontario by W.L. Smith
- The Rural Life of England by William Hewitt
And just to ensure I don’t get non fiction overload, I will also probably reread
- The Frightened Man by Kenneth M. Cameron (an adult mystery set in Victorian London – wonderful voice, and great relationship between the protagonist Denton and his manservant Atkins)
- The Agency (and others) YA series by YS Lee
- Bleak House or David Copperfield
- and any other new Victorian-era fiction I come across (suggestions welcomed)
And I will read, reread and savour all over again, Margaret Atwood’s wonderful poem Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer, the first piece I read that gave me what felt like an authentic feeling for the pioneer experience.